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A Realist Conception of Truth

William P. Alston (Cornell University Press: April 1997), 296 pages.

One of the most important Anglo-American philosophers of our time here joins the current philosophical debate about the nature of truth with a work likely to claim a place at the very center of the contemporary philosophical literature on the subject. William P. Alston formulates and defends a realist conception of truth, which he calls alethic realism (from “aletheia,” Greek for “truth”). This idea holds that the truth value of a statement (belief or proposition) depends on whether what the statement is about is as the statement says it is. Although this concept may seem quite obvious, Alston says, many thinkers hold views incompatible with it — and much of his book is devoted to a powerful critique of those views. Michael Dummett and Hilary Putnam are two of the prominent and widely influential contemporary philosophers whose anti-realist ideas he attacks. Alston discusses different realist accounts of truth, examining what they do and do not imply. He distinguishes his version, which he characterizes as “minimalist,” from various “deflationary” accounts, all of which deny that asserting the truth of a proposition attributes a property of truth to it. He also examines alethic realism in relation to a variety of metaphysical realisms. Finally, Alston argues for the importance — theoretical and practical — of assessing the truth value of statements, beliefs, and propositions. ~ Product Description

Table of Contents

    • Preface
    • Introduction    1
    • 1    Alethic Realism    5
    • 2    Alethic Realism and Metaphysical Realism    65
    • 3    An Epistemological Objection to Alethic Realism    85
    • 4    Dummett’s Verificationist Alternative to Alethic Realism    103
    • 5    Putnam’s Model-Theoretic Argument    132
    • 6    Putnam on “Conceptual Relativity”    162
    • 7    Epistemic Conceptions of Truth    188
    • 8    Doing without Truth    231
    • Epilogue    262
    • Bibliography    265
    • Index    269